By Catherine Goodrum
Principal, The Trilogy Group
My swim coaches found the amazing Matilda in Minnesota. She is a heroine of mine, despite the fact that she is simply a statuette of a beautiful, buxom swimmer wearing a swimsuit and cap popular in the 1940s.
What I love most about Matilda is that she is posed to make you realize that at any moment she could dive into a big blue pool, or the wonderful wide-open ocean. That’s why this statuette of this proud, strong, invincible woman is the prize that the “most inspiring camper” is awarded annually at the Total Immersion™ Women’s Swim Camp in St. John, U.S. Virgin lslands.
I am thrilled to report that as I write this article, Matilda is sitting on the mantle in my house in Northern Virginia. She is a tribute to my fearlessness, and whenever I look at her she gives me courage and tells me I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Here’s our story.
Against my better judgment, I signed up for the Total Immersion™ program in 2010.
Of course, being the tough broad that I am, I didn’t tell anyone I was petrified of swimming in open water. I just figured I’d push my way through the fear that I had since I was 15, when I was trapped beneath the water under a sail for several minutes and was not sure I’d resurface. When I did, I refused to get back into the water.
What’s worse, I was so ashamed of my fear that I never confessed to my children, husband, or friends, why I wouldn’t get in a pool or go near the ocean. I was humiliated by what I considered my weakness, and I was determined to keep it a secret.
When my father was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that makes you feel like you are drowning, I watched as he struggled for air, and I could feel his pain. But I could breathe. I could swim.
And then he died three days after I turned 50. That’s the day I made a promise to myself to overcome the stigma that I had carried with me for decades. “I am going to swim again,” I said aloud, hoping I’d have the courage to actually follow through.
It was the swim coach who made me do it.
The woman who got me back in the water, Celeste St. Pierre, was on to me. She had seen aquaphobics before and knew I was a classic case. No matter how much I resisted, she knew how to gently, calmly coax me into the water, getting me to walk in just a few feet that first day and splash around. On day 2, I swam a little. The next day, I swam some more.
Four days into the camp, I was able to get myself to swim an entire mile through St. John’s Maho Bay. It was really stressful, but I was determined. And I was supported. So when I boarded the plane back to DC, I figured I had accomplished my goal. I didn’t need to attend swim camp again.
But I realized I wasn’t finished. I was liberated. On Dec. 4, 2011—I decided I had a difference to make. That’s the day I launched a fundraiser for the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis.. My goal was to swim 2.2 miles, and raise $5,000. By the time I left camp, I had raised more than $10,000 from the friends who believed I could do it. And that gave me courage. I swam 3.2 miles on the day of the long swim.
It wasn’t easy. Neither is anything that’s worthwhile. So I kept going. Just as I do with everything in my life. And that’s what I hope everyone else that I meet does, too.
So when it was time to give the Matilda award, the other campers nominated me.
And that’s why Matilda sits on my mantle. And that’s why I am writing this article—because I know you can overcome your challenges, too. To prove it, this year I am taking Matilda on every awesome, scary, challenging trip I take. I’m calling 2012 “The Adventures of Cat and Matilda” year. And so far it has been a thrill.
If you are dealing with something that shames you, or makes you feel small and awkward, I am here to tell you that you can overcome it. Put yourself in the face of it, and walk through it.
If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have gotten to a point where I feel safe and confident. It’s like being a child sitting in a closet—open the door, take the first step outside and make sure it’s safe. Once it is, take the next step. Align yourself with a community of people who make you feel comfortable, and allow you to be who you are. This is paramount to overcoming the stuff that keeps you stuck.
Matilda is a survivor—and so are you.
She is spirit. And she is community. Everyone loves her, wants to touch her, and wants to take her home.
Every time I look at her on my mantle, I feel like I am getting a big hug from all of the coaches and campers who helped me work my way through one of my biggest fears.
Who is your Matilda? What can she help you overcome? Find her, and free yourself. After that, anything is possible.
Connect with Catherine Goodrum on LinkedIn.
About the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis
The Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis (CPF) is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization, founded in 2001 to accelerate research efforts leading to a cure for pulmonary fibrosis (PF), while educating, supporting, and advocating for the community of patients, families, and medical professionals fighting this disease.
The CPF funds promising research into new approaches to treat and cure pulmonary fibrosis; provides patients and families with comprehensive education materials, resources, and hope; serves as a voice for national advocacy of Pulmonary Fibrosis issues; and works to improve awareness of Pulmonary Fibrosis in the medical community as well as the general public.
Partners include many of the most respected medical centers and healthcare organizations in the U.S. With more than 17,000 members nationwide, the CPF is the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. dedicated to advocating for those with pulmonary fibrosis. For more information please visit www.coalitionforpf.org or call (888) 222-8541.
The CPF’s nonprofit partners include the American Thoracic Society, the Anne Harroun Landgraf Foundation, the Caring Voice Coalition, the Genetic Alliance, the Mary D. Harris Memorial Foundation, the National Coalition of Autoimmune Patient Groups, the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), The Pulmonary Paper, the Second Wind Lung Transplant Association, and more than 35 leading medical and research centers nationwide.
The CPF is only able to serve the Pulmonary Fibrosis community because of the generous support of the public that we serve. To learn more about how you can help, please call 888-222-8541 or email email@example.com.
For more information, visit www.coalitionforpf.org.